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Published July 20, 2013 | Submitted + Published
Journal Article Open

Mid-Infrared Selection of Active Galactic Nuclei with the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer. II. Properties of WISE-Selected Active Galactic Nuclei in the NDWFS Boötes Field


Stern et al. presented a study of Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) selection of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) in the 2 deg^2 COSMOS field, finding that a simple criterion W1-W2 ≥ 0.8 provides a highly reliable and complete AGN sample for W2 < 15.05, where the W1 and W2 passbands are centered at 3.4 μm and 4.6 μm, respectively. Here we extend this study using the larger 9 deg^2 NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey Boötes field which also has considerably deeper WISE observations than the COSMOS field, and find that this simple color cut significantly loses reliability at fainter fluxes. We define a modified selection criterion combining the W1–W2 color and the W2 magnitude to provide highly reliable or highly complete AGN samples for fainter WISE sources. In particular, we define a color-magnitude cut that finds 130 ± 4 deg^(–2) AGN candidates for W2 < 17.11 with 90% reliability. Using the extensive UV through mid-IR broadband photometry available in this field, we study the spectral energy distributions of WISE AGN candidates. We find that, as expected, the WISE AGN selection can identify highly obscured AGNs, but that it is biased toward objects where the AGN dominates the bolometric luminosity output. We study the distribution of reddening in the AGN sample and discuss a formalism to account for sample incompleteness based on the step-wise maximum-likelihood method of Efstathiou et al. The resulting dust obscuration distributions depend strongly on AGN luminosity, consistent with the trend expected for a receding torus. At L_AGN ~ 3 × 10^(44) erg s^–1, 29% ± 7% of AGNs are observed as Type 1, while at ~4 × 10^(45) erg s^(–1) the fraction is 64% ± 13%. The distribution of obscuration values suggests that dust in the torus is present as both a diffuse medium and in optically thick clouds.

Additional Information

© 2013 American Astronomical Society. Received 2012 September 25; accepted 2013 May 22; published 2013 July 2. We thank M. Dickinson, A.H. Gonzalez, J. Kartaltepe, B. Mobasher, H. Nayyeri, K. Penner, and G. Zeimann for helping us obtain some of the Keck spectroscopic observations used in this work. We thank M. Elitzur for an insightful discussion about dust properties in AGNs. We thank the NDWFS, NEWFIRM, and MAGES survey teams for providing their respective data sets over the Boötes field. We thank the anonymous referee for suggestions that helped improve our work. R.J.A. and C.-W.T. are supported by an appointment to the NASA Postdoctoral Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities through a contract with NASA. This publication makes use of data products from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which is a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation.

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Published - 0004-637X_772_1_26.pdf

Submitted - 1209.6055v1.pdf


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